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Healthy forests make healthy people – Rio 2016




To compete in the 2016 Olympic Games, good nutrition is a crucial part of training, as any of the 10,000 plus athletes who have descended on Rio this summer will tell you. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet is critical to delivering peak athletic performance, along with practice, discipline and determination.

A healthy diet contains whole, minimally processed foods, some of which are native to the Amazon rainforest. In Brazil, we are working with farm and forest communities, supporting them to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification for their operations, which produce, amongst other food items, bananas and Brazil nuts.

Brazil Nuts

David Dudenhoefer

Brazil nuts are an incredibly nutrient-rich food that could be a great addition to an athlete’s diet. A 100-gram serving has just 12 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fibre, 14 grams of protein, 94 percent of the daily recommended intake of magnesium, 13 percent for iron, and 16 percent for calcium.

The Brazil nut tree is predominantly found in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru. It’s often found within a group of 50 or more similar trees (groupings like this are called stands).

Brazil nuts are one of the most valuable non-timber products for communities in the Amazon. However, these trees are easily impacted by nearby deforestation and only seem to produce fruit in healthy, undisturbed forests.

These nuts are one of a relatively small number of globally traded commodities that are helping to save threatened forests. Harvested from fallen fruits, Brazil nut extraction involves little more than collecting the pods known as ‘cocos’ from the forest floor. This practice has been found to increase the abundance of Brazil nut trees across the landscape.

These arboreal wonders can reach heights of almost 50 metres, and in one year a Brazil nut tree can produce some 250 pounds of nuts. Unlike other well-known nuts like almonds or cashews, Brazil nut cannot be grown in plantations; harvesting can only be sustained in closed canopy Amazonian rainforest.


Costa Rica Bananas

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One regular- or average-sized banana contains 25 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B6 (which helps the body create neurotransmitters), 14 percent of manganese (which plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism), and 12 percent of potassium (an electrolyte which helps maintain a healthy heart-rate and normal rhythm). Bananas also contain the minerals copper, which the human body does not naturally produce very much of, and biotin, which is vital for maintaining blood sugar balance and a healthy metabolism. In other words, athletes can only benefit from regularly eating bananas.

Today, bananas cultivated on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms are sold in 62 countries, and represent 5.6 percent of the world’s banana supply. Grown in every humid, tropical region on Earth, bananas are the world’s fourth-biggest crop in terms of production value, and more than ten billion bananas are exported from producer countries annually.

A lack of biodiversity can make banana plants susceptible to disease, which in the past, farm managers often attempted to control with toxic pesticides that would then leak into drinking water, pollute irrigation canals, and endanger the health of workers, their families, and communities. That’s why in 1991 the Rainforest Alliance, along with local non-profit organisations, scientists, and farmers established the first standards for responsible banana production.

Contrary to popular belief, banana plants are not trees but giant herbs, which reach their full height of between 10 and 20 feet after only a year. Ten or more bananas growing together on these plants form a ‘hand;’ banana stems have on average 150 ‘fingers’ and weigh nearly 45 kg. Banana leaves are used worldwide in many unexpected ways: as cooking materials, plates, umbrellas, seat pads for benches, fishing lines, clothing fabric, and soles for inexpensive shoes.

Bananas are indigenous to the tropical portions of India, Southeast Asia, and northern Australia, and were brought to South America by the Portuguese in the early 16th century. Today, banana plants grow in the humid, tropical regions of Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia where there are high temperatures and rainfall levels.

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Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations



green housing techniques

Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions



auto industry to clean air pollution

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.


The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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